Friday, 30 August 2013

Respect and space

Springfield Road sign

As someone living in the UK who has chosen the bicycle as a main mode of everyday transport, I have to say, I do not at all feel valued on our roads. It's funny. Since we have all these info initiatives and calls to "share the road" and for "mutual respect" and to "be nice to each other" (and see photo above) or whatever they are all called - we should be the friendliest country in the world for drivers sharing with cyclists in perfect harmony.

In "addition", the Highway Code gives useful advice to the driver (which is good as only one in five drivers has road cycling experience) :

Be considerate. Be careful of and considerate towards all types of road users, especially those requiring extra care (see Rule 204 below). You should
  • try to be understanding if other road users cause problems; they may be inexperienced or not know the area well
  • be patient; remember that anyone can make a mistake
  • not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is behaving badly on the road. This will only make the situation worse. Pull over, calm down and, when you feel relaxed, continue your journey
  • slow down and hold back if a road user pulls out into your path at a junction. Allow them to get clear. Do not over-react by driving too close behind to intimidate them
  • do not throw anything out of a vehicle, for example, cigarette ends, cans, paper or carrier bags. This can endanger other road users, particularly motorcyclists and cyclists.
Residential streets. You should drive slowly and carefully on streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. In some areas a 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit may be in force. Look out for
  • vehicles emerging from junctions or driveways
  • vehicles moving off
  • car doors opening
  • pedestrians
  • children running out from between parked cars
  • cyclists and motorcyclists
The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders.
When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room. If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.
Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

All well then? No. The reality is starkly different. There is a war raging on our roads. Cycling is riddled with risk, conflict and danger, and as a cyclist I find myself taking decisions against the law, simply for my own safety and to make riding for my daily transport bearable, and continue cycling - after all is what government wants to do.


There is a hierarchy of harm. Everyone who argues cyclists are bullying and aggressive does not understand how dangerous it feels out there for people on bikes (in fact many don't ride for that reason, and some then cycle on the pavement).

Drivers have to earn respect.

Respect has to be given by the most powerful party first, only then it becomes truly mutual. If only drivers could follow the Highway Code rather than their own self-made Rules of the Road...

Real respect only comes with space fairness

As for myself, I don't want to share - I want my own safe space set aside to reduce the conflict and allow for human error. Only that makes cycling comfortable so that everyone can seriously consider it as a means of transport.

Sharing the road but not the risk - can I please have my own space!

Space for cycling

1 comment:

  1. If there is any aggression on a cyclists part, it is most likely as a result of the road environment. Feeling like your life is threatened leads to the activation of your fight or flight reaction and there is often nowhere to run to. Repeat this on a daily basis and you either become desensitized to the danger, or you become more aggressive.